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[whitespace] Main Street hotel is on its way up

Los Gatos--Bulldozers rumbled and cranes swung last week, as the town said goodbye to a trio of E. Main Street businesses to make way for Diane Ogilvie's Main Street hotel.

Starting April 24, Pinn Brothers Construction Company began leveling buildings that once housed Siam Thai Cuisine, La Strada Ristorante and Kerful Cleaners. The demolition comes a dozen years after Ogilvie, a long-time Los Gatos property owner, began her efforts to build an upscale hotel across from Los Gatos High School.

"I'm so excited, I can't believe it," the 80-year-old Ogilvie said.

Ogilvie's 72-room hotel, with seven conference rooms, a 166-seat restaurant and bar, pool and underground parking garages is scheduled for completion by spring 2001. The building is being constructed by Pinn Brothers, a family-run business Ogilvie said had the same vision of the project she did.

The project is financially backed by Cupertino Bank in San Jose. When completed the hotel will be managed by Joie de Vivre, a San Francisco boutique hotel management company. Planning staff has estimated the new hotel will bring the town more than $333,000 a year in hotel taxes, as well as an increase in property taxes.

"It [will be] a lovely spot, because it's sort of a resort spot, but it's also something very easy to come to for Los Gatos business people," Ogilvie said, adding that it would be a "high-end" hotel.

Ogilvie overcame substantial opposition from neighbors and town staff, securing a necessary zone change and demolition permit by a 3-2 council vote on Dec. 22, 1998. Foes of the project argued the hotel will increase traffic and parking problems, negatively impact the adjoining residential neighborhood, block mountain views and draw attention away from historic Los Gatos High School.

A number of historical preservationists also fought the demolition of Kerful Cleaners, a small one-story building some said added historical character to the area. Former town treasurer Jim Stoops operated the cleaners for two decades, starting in the 1960s.

Ogilvie and her supporters have maintained that the hotel will improve the area, benefit both the community and neighboring businesses and bolster the town coffers. Ogilvie and EarthStar Design and Development, the company designing the hotel, went through a number of redesign requirements. They reduced the size and mass of the hotel and changed the architecture to make it more compatible with the high school and other nearby buildings. The hotel will feature a Terra Cotta tile roof and Santa Barbara-style stucco walls.

Ogilvie said she never gave up hope, and would still be fighting for the hotel today had it not been approved--that's just the way she is. "It's the challenge of it, the dream, the excitement," Ogilvie said. "And I want to leave something beautiful behind."

As part of the town's approval, Ogilvie agreed to a number of conditions. Hotel management must provide a courtesy shuttle to the San Jose airport, lighting must be low wattage and angled downward, amplified music will be restricted and the bar service areas are to be tightly regulated. The landscaping plan will include numerous, mostly evergreen, trees.

Mayor Steve Blanton, who voted in favor of the zone change sought by Ogilvie, said he maintains his belief that the project will be a benefit to the town. Blanton said be believed many of the concerns regarding traffic, compatibility and historical character weren't justified.

"The design is respectful of Los Gatos architecture and tradition," Blanton said. "When you think about the buildings we cherish now, at one time they were new as well."

The hotel is yet to be officially named, but Ogilvie said the working title was "The Los Gatos Hotel." The former nightclub singer added that she has been rehearsing as of late, and will be singing at her hotel "every now and then" once it opens.

All three of the now-leveled businesses have moved elsewhere. Only Siam Thai Cuisine left the immediate area, moving to San Jose. Kerful Cleaners has a location in Saratoga and will be opening another facility on Los Gatos Boulevard. La Strada's popular chef Aldo Maresca left the E. Main Street location in July 1999, to open Aldo's Ristorante and Bar on Winchester Avenue.

On April 22 and 24, fire crews from Santa Clara County Fire District took advantage of the demolition opportunity to stage search and rescue exercises.
Nathan R. Huff

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